Keeping the Lines Open: The Importance of Communication Between Academic Translator and Scholar
An academic translator's job is not to replace individual words from a text with equivalent words in another language. Rather, their job is to authentically communicate the author's message, style and voice while creating a stand-alone text in the target language.
In order to accomplish this, translators must establish regular and effective lines of communication with the author of the text they are translating. Creating a dialogue around the project will both help each party clearly understand the expectations and objectives of the project and also improve the end result.
Putting Our Best Foot Forward
As Judy A. Abrahams notes, it is essential for the writer-translator relationship to start off on the right foot. Agreeing on a clear set of expectations for the project allows both parties to feel confident in the process, and this will lay the groundwork for continued communication as the project proceeds. At the start, both parties should agree on:
With a brief conversation, parameters can be set for the project and the translator can begin work with confidence. This communication can improve the chances that your manuscript will be accepted for publication.
While it is essential to establish a set of expectations early in the writer-translator relationship, it is equally as important to maintain communication throughout the project. An ongoing dialogue is important for two main reasons:
1. Communication Helps Ensure Accuracy
There are several types of questions that may arise during the course of the work of an academic translator. The translator may need more information on technical terminology, guidance on culturally-specific vocabulary or have questions about preferred style. A translator's ability to request and receive feedback from the author will help ensure that the text is translated correctly. Clients should be suspicious of translators who don't ask questions.
2. Communication Improves Customer Service
When an author entrusts their text to a translator, they are taking a leap of faith. Their text may be the product of years of research and writing. It may have an impact on potential career opportunities and promotion. The author will gain confidence if they are kept abreast of progress and given the opportunity to provide input. Translators will then create more satisfied clients for their business, an essential element of marketing for those in the translation business.
The Role of the Translator in Publication
Finally, a successful translator will communicate not only with the author of the work, but may also communicate directly with the publication editor, when appropriate.
Academic scholars often seek academic translation of their work so that it may be considered for publication in international journals. Therefore, it may be to both the translator and author's advantage for all three parties to maintain open communication about the policies, norms and requirements of the publishing house or journal. This may be specifically helpful when it comes to questions about academic proofreading or formatting preferences. As Agnes Whitfield notes in her study of the editor-author-translator relationship, there is a “relative absence of standard editing procedures for translations.” Clear and effective communication thus take on even greater importance.
Therefore, in each instance, the translator must be aware of the standards that will be applied to the text. While translators should seek the author's permission before contacting editors directly, open lines of communication with the author and editor will allow the publication process to proceed smoothly.
Maintaining Successful Communication
For the benefit of both authors and translators, it is important for those working in the field to:
Following this simple set of guidelines will result in the satisfaction of both the translator and his or her clients.
Avi Staiman is an academic translator and editor and the current CEO of Academic Language Experts. Avi can be reached at avi [at] aclang com.
Published in June 2018.